Pubdate: Wed, 25 May 2016
Source: Stranger, The (Seattle, WA)
Copyright: 2016 The Stranger
Author: Tobias Coughlin-Bogue


Plus, the WSLCB Finally Sets Rules for Acceptable Pesticide Levels

Senator Michael Baumgartner (R-Spokane) recently added another bill 
to his already impressive list of idiotic, regressive policy ideas: 
allowing cities to ban pot businesses in places based on preexisting 
alcohol impact areas (AIA).

The AIA program, for those who missed that dark chapter of our 
state's history, was cooked up in 1999 as a way to fight chronic 
street inebriation. Administered by the Washington State Liquor and 
Cannabis Board (WSLCB), it bans the sale of certain types of booze 
that are especially popular with chronic street drunks.

That's right, it's not a ban on all high-ABV booze, it's a ban 
specifically on alcoholic drinks that homeless people gravitate to, 
and it applies only to stores, not bars. So an economically 
disadvantaged drinker can't buy Colt 45 at the Saveway, but a 
brogrammer pre-funcing for a Sounders game can grab an imperial IPA 
from Cone and Steiner with no issue. The first AIA in Seattle went 
into effect in Pioneer Square in 2003, and others exist in Tacoma, 
Olympia, Vancouver, and Spokane.

As anyone who spends time in Pioneer Square can tell you, AIAs didn't 
do a damn thing to solve chronic street inebriation. Instead, they 
only made life harder for people already living hard lives. The 
program is classist, racist, anti-homeless garbage at its worst.

Baumgartner is framing his proposal as a safety issue. "This is a 
common sense fix with serious public safety impact," he wrote in a 
press release announcing the bill. "The recreational market is still 
young and in need of updates. This is just another option for local 
cities to address public safety concerns."

Except that there is no evidence that legalizing pot has increased 
crime or created a public-safety hazard. Teens don't have easier 
access to it, and there is no proof that pot stores are nuisance 
businesses. There is actually more evidence to the contrary.

To wit, pot has been a boon to the Spokane economy, said Crystal 
Oliver, a Spokane-area grower. City leaders, she told me, see pot 
stores as a good thing for the city, especially in "distressed" 
areas. "Bringing in a business that is going to have foot traffic 
would be an overall improvement to that part of downtown," she said.

According to the Spokesman-Review, a Spokane church is driving the 
legislation. The Cathedral of Our Lady of Lourdes is unhappy that pot 
store Lucky Leaf opened nearby and blames the store for an increase 
in aggressive panhandling and other crime. Lacking support from the 
Spokane City Council, the church found an ally in Baumgartner.

But they may have trouble finding others sympathetic to their plight. 
At a May 12 special meeting of the senate's Commerce and Labor 
Committee to discuss the draft legislation, two committee members 
walked out, according to Kevin Oliver, president of Washington's 
NORML chapter, who was present. In an interview, Senator Bob 
Hasegawa, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said: "I have many 
concerns about the bill, in part because there are a lot more issues 
at play than what is addressed in it. I got the sense that alcohol 
impact areas are not the correct nexus to address the issues raised 
in testimony we heard in Spokane last week. While there is perhaps an 
opening for more public input at the local level before marijuana 
businesses open, I think a lot of the concerns raised were stemming 
from preconceived notions about what impacts marijuana businesses may 
have on a community, as well as, if not even more so, issues around 
mental-health treatment and social services offered in the immediate vicinity."

The last thing we need to do is associate pot with a socially 
regressive policy at the behest of one Spokane church. There's enough 
of that in cannabis already, thank you very much.

WSLCB Finally Sets Rules for Pesticide Levels

On May 18, the WSLCB passed an emergency rule setting the state's 
first pesticide action levels for cannabis. It also approved draft 
language for a permanent rule regarding product recalls, moving to 
make an earlier emergency rule permanent. The actions come in the 
aftermath of Pestgate, the recent snafu over the discovery of 
disallowed pesticides detected on Washington cannabis.

The action levels are modeled on Oregon's existing ones, with a 
blanket .1 ppm limit for all compounds not covered by that list. The 
Washington CannaBusiness Association welcomed the limits, citing them 
as a vast improvement over the previous system of zero tolerance.

"Pesticide action levels are standard in the food industry and other 
industries that create products for human consumption," the group 
stated in a press release. "Previously, tolerance standards were 
applied to pesticides in marijuana that were out of alignment with 
analogous industries, did not recognize the presence of pesticides in 
our natural environment, and were impossible to verify in the lab."

The Washington State Department of Health (DOH) will also be adopting 
the proposed thresholds for their "medically compliant" products. 
Kristi Weeks, policy counsel at the DOH, said the zero-tolerance 
model was keeping medically compliant products off the market because 
producers weren't willing to risk losing a whole crop over a trace 
amount of pesticide.

"Also, we weren't giving the labs a level to test for, so they could 
have (conceivably) tested to 500 parts per million, found nothing and 
called it good even if the product actually contained 490 ppm," Weeks 
wrote in an e-mail.

The two WSLCB rules are integral to the overall consumer-safety 
framework for cannabis because, without action levels, it was nearly 
impossible for the WSLCB to demonstrate a clear reason for a recall. 
Though the state did issue stop-sale orders late in 2015 to two 
growers whose cannabis showed evidence of disallowed pesticides, 
there has not yet been an official recall of any products-only a 
smattering of voluntary ones within the industry.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom